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January 4, 2017 + On Grace Before and After Baptism

by St. Diadochos of Photiki

76. Some have imagined that both grace and sin - that is, the spirit of truth and the spirit of error - are hidden at the same time in the intellect [nous] of the baptized. As a result, they say, one of these two spirits urges the intellect to good, the other to evil. But from Holy Scripture and through the intellect's [nous'] own insight I have come to understand things differently. Before holy baptism, grace encourages the soul towards good from the outside, while Satan lurks in its depths, trying to block all the intellect's ways of approach to the divine. But from the moment that we are reborn through baptism, the demon is outside, grace is within. Thus, whereas before baptism error ruled the soul, after baptism truth rules it. Nevertheless, even after baptism Satan still acts on the soul, often, indeed, to a greater degree than before. This is not because he is present in the soul together with grace; on the contrary, it is because he uses the body's humors to befog the intellect [nous] with the delight of mindless pleasures. God allows him to do this, so that a man, after passing through a trial of storm and fire, may come in the end to the full enjoyment of divine blessings. For it is written: 'We went through fire and water, and Thou hast brought us out into a place where the soul is refreshed' (Ps. 66.12. LXX).

Diocese of Charleston Bible Study + January 4, 2017

Hebrews 5:11-6:8
Luke 21:5-7, 10-11, 20-24

Hebrews 5:11-6:8 (NKJV)
Of whom, brethren, we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame. For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned. 

January 2017 Newsletter

Dear friend of St. Athanasius Academy:

Jesus is the Anointed One – The Christ –
He came to the Jordan to be Baptized for our Sake

The One Who meets John the Baptist at the River Jordan, near Jericho, is named Jesus. He is the Incarnate Word and the son of Mary, whom we celebrate on Christmas. He is the One on whom the Light of His Nativity shines. In the Old Testament, this Anointed One of His eternal Father was also known as: Lord God, "I AM the I AM", YHWH, and also the Christ.

To most, this One divine Person, entering the waters with John, is assumed to be just another human, being just like John - no more, no less. As the only son of Mary, this may have seemed reasonable. Moreover, He likely earned a few cuts and bruises in need of Mom's help.

See the attached PDF files for this month's full teaching and to order the study booklets.

Many Years to His Grace Bishop Basil!

Many years, master! January 1st is the celebration of St. Basil the Great and the namesday of His Grace Bishop Basil. May God grant him many years!

Apolytikion of St. Basil, Tone 1

In all the earth that received thy sayings, thy melody did resound, O righteous father, through which thou didst go about and proclaim, as worthy of God, the nature of creatures, cultivating the character of mankind, O thou of kingly Priesthood, Basil. Wherefore, plead thou with Christ God to save our souls.

St. Basil the Great & The Circumcision of the Lord + January 1

In all the earth that received thy sayings, thy melody did resound, O righteous father, through which thou didst go about and proclaim, as worthy of God, the nature of creatures, cultivating the character of mankind, O thou of kingly Priesthood, Basil. Wherefore, plead thou with Christ God to save our souls.

+Apolytikion of St. Basil, Tone 1

When the Savior condescended for the sake of mankind, He was willing to be wrapped in swaddling clothes, and He Who was eight days old on the side of His Mother, and eternal on the side of His Father did not disdain the circumcision of the flesh. Wherefore, let us cry to Him, O believers, Thou art our God; have mercy upon us.

+Doxasticon of the Feast, Tone 8

Many years to His Grace Bishop Basil of the Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America on his Namesday!
Read Fr. Thomas Hopko's reflection on today's commemorations
The Tradition of the Vasilopita
Read "Message for the New Year" by Fr. George Shalhoub

Byzantine Hymn of the Nativity

Today is born of the Virgin Him Who holdeth all creation in the hollow of His hand.
He Whose essence is untouchable is wrapped in swaddling clothes as a babe.
The God Who from of old established the heavens lieth in a manger.
He Who showered the people with manna in the wilderness feedeth on milk from the breasts.
And the bridegroom of the Church calleth the Magi, and the Son of the Virgin accepteth gifts from them.
We worship Thy Nativity, O Christ.
Show us also Thy divine Theophany!

The Nativity Sermon of St. John Chrysostom

Behold a new and wondrous mystery.

My ears resound to the Shepherd’s song, piping no soft melody, but chanting full forth a heavenly hymn. The Angels sing. The Archangels blend their voice in harmony. The Cherubim hymn their joyful praise. The Seraphim exalt His glory. All join to praise this holy feast, beholding the Godhead here on earth, and man in heaven. He Who is above, now for our redemption dwells here below; and he that was lowly is by divine mercy raised.

Bethlehem this day resembles heaven; hearing from the stars the singing of angelic voices; and in place of the sun, enfolds within itself on every side, the Sun of justice. And ask not how: for where God wills, the order of nature yields. For He willed; He had the power; He descended; He redeemed; all things yielded in obedience to God.

St. Ignatius of Antioch + December 20

Like a living monument and an animate image, thy yearly feast is come, O God-bearing Ignatius, proclaiming thy mystic teachings and thy heroic exploits, thy resistance for the Faith even unto blood, and those blessed and celebrated words of thine, which said: I am the wheat of God, and in the teeth of beasts shall I be ground up. Wherefore, as an imitator of the Passion of Christ, intercede that our souls be saved.

+Orthros of the Feast, Tone 1

Read more about St. Ignatius the God-Bearer
Learn about the Order of St. Ignatius
Resources for the Nativity Season

Memory Eternal + Right Reverend Protosyngellos Paul Doyle

May his memory be eternal! On December 17, 2016, the Right Reverend Protosyngellos Paul Doyle fell asleep in the Lord. Update: Funeral schedule is now available, please scroll down.

His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph writes:

"Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek."

Beloved hierarchs, clergy and faithful laity of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America:

It is with a sorrowful heart, lightened only by confidence in the abundant mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, that I announce the passing of the Right Reverend Protosyngellos Paul Doyle. For almost 42 years, Fr. Paul has led an exemplary life as a priest of the Holy Orthodox Church, and, I dare say, one of the most profoundly humble men I have ever met.

ORDO 2017 Western Rite Liturgical Guide Now Available

Ordo 2017 (the Liturgical Guide) for parishes in the Western Rite Vicariate is now available in three formats: perfect bound, spiral, and ebook (pdf). The Ordo contains rubrics for reciting the Divine Office and Celebrating the Mass according to the calendar and use of the Western Rite Vicariate of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America. It contains rubrics for both the Rite of St. Gregory with the Monastic Diurnal, and the Rite of St. Tikhon with The English Office.

To purchase your copy, go to www.lulu.com/spotlight/frfenton.

Re-Gifting Christmas Gifts?

by His Grace Bishop John, from The Word Magazine, December 2016

My wife and I never seemed to be able to settle the question, Is it right to re-gift? My love would shop for days, seeking the perfect gift to express her love and care for the person for whom she was shopping. I was never much of a shopper, and re-gifting allowed me to recycle really nice items that I didn't need, or had no room to store. Surely one could make the case that, when it comes to money, and perhaps wine, everyone re-gifts. If we receive gifts of money, and we give gifts of money, we are sort of re-gifting. I could even make the case that things, like money, convey the transfer of value.

Christmas gifts are somehow related to remembering the gift from God of His Son, or rather, the gift of Christ of Himself. This gift is offered in full knowledge that, with it, come suffering, humiliation and death. This gift is offered so that we can be given real life, that is, the love and life of God within the life and love of the Holy Trinity.

December 14, 2016 + On the Patriarch Jacob

by St. Nikolai Velimirovich

For I have seen God face to face and my life is preserved (Genesis 32:30).

The God of Abraham and Isaac is also the God of Jacob the faithful, the obedient, the merciful and the meek. The meek beholder of God, Jacob, can be called the ''one who saw God.'' For in truth he was meek, and he saw God and spoke with God, and he saw the angels of God and the ladder from earth to heaven. By his meekness he defeated Laban his father-in-law, and Esau his brother; by his meekness he made peace between his wives, Leah and Rachel; for his meekness he was even dear to pharaoh. Jacob's meekness is a prefiguration of the meekness of Christ. Blessed are the meek, said the Lord, for they shall inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5).

Diocese of Charleston Bible Study + December 14, 2016

I Timothy 5:22-6:11
Mark 8:30-34

I Timothy 5:22-6:11 (NKJV)
Do not lay hands on anyone hastily, nor share in other people's sins; keep yourself pure. No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach's sake and your frequent infirmities. Some men's sins are clearly evident, preceding them to judgment, but those of some men follow later. Likewise, the good works of some are clearly evident, and those that are otherwise cannot be hidden. Let as many bondservants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and His doctrine may not be blasphemed. And those who have believing masters, let them not despise them because they are brethren, but rather serve them because those who are benefited are believers and beloved. Teach and exhort these things. If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself. Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.

St. Herman of Alaska + December 13

St. Herman of AlaskaIn an obscure corner of what is now Alaska, on an Aleutian island called Spruce, a monk labored from the late 1700’s until his repose in 1837. Braving subzero temperatures, plagues and storms, ill treatment from fellow Russians who resented and misunderstood him, St. Herman lived a life marked by astonishing ascetic labor that gave birth to a deep love and concern for all with whom he came in contact. Strangely, despite the miracles associated with him not only throughout his life but also, after his death, he was all but forgotten after he reposed.

"Thirty years will pass after my death, all those who live now on Spruce Island will be dead, you alone will remain alive, and you will be old and poor; then they will remember me," Father Herman said to his Aleut follower, Ignatius Aliaga. As with other prophecies of the saint, this one too was fulfilled, as in 1867, Bishop Peter of Alaska began a formal investigation into his life. It wasn’t until 1894 that his story became known to the outside world, and then his glorification waited another 76 years, until August 9, 1970.

The Conception of the Theotokos + December 9

Anna besought the Lord in fervent prayer for a child. The voice of the angel proclaimed to her: God has granted you the desire of your prayer. Do not weep, for you shall be a fruitful vine, bearing the wondrous branch of the Virgin who will bring forth in the flesh the blossom Christ, Who grants great mercy to the world.

Today the great mystery of all eternity, whose depths angels and men cannot perceive, appears in the barren womb of Anna. Mary, the Maiden of God, is prepared to be the dwelling place of the eternal King Who will renew human nature. Let us entreat her with a pure heart and say: Intercede for us with your Son and God that our souls may be saved.

+Vespers of the Feast

Fr. Thomas Hopko on the Conception of Mary

Liturgy of Bedtime

by Albert Rossi, Ph.D., St. Vladimir's Seminary

One of the more regular times of "Letting the children come" to God is bedtime. Often stories and prayers at bedtime can be relaxed, non-competitive time with children. When everything is right, bedtime can be a time when the unconditional love of parent for child is almost tangible. Children are usually tired and sometimes less frenetic. It also goes without saying that some nights seem more like thinly veiled chaos. But, hopefully, most nights are more peaceful.

Going to sleep for children happens gracefully only within an elaborate ritual. This is the liturgy of going to sleep and is not totally unlike other liturgies. Father Alexander Schmemann spoke of the Eucharist beginning with the long ritual of getting dressed for Church and continuing through the trip to Church and all the beautiful liturgy preceding Communion. In a similar way, children go to sleep after intricate ceremony. This usually includes taking a bath, putting on pajamas, brushing their teeth, kissing everyone in the household goodnight, hearing a story, saying prayers, getting tucked in, and for little ones, a Linus blanket and Teddy for special security. This is the liturgy of bedtime. It's a tender time, a loving time. It's a rare and precious time. It's a time to be close to each other and to God.

Metropolitan Joseph's Message for Choir and Chanter Appreciation Sunday 2016

December 11, 2016
Choir and Chanter Appreciation Sunday

“I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being” Psalm 104:33

Beloved in Christ:

Greetings to you and your families as we prepare to celebrate the Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ according to the flesh.

As is the custom in our Archdiocese, the second Sunday of December is dedicated to our choirs and chanters who work so hard to make our divine services beautiful throughout the year. Our choirs in the Archdiocese resemble our families and parishes. Some are large and strong; some are small and need help. Some have many polished and professional singers; others depend on the goodwill of volunteers with little or no musical training. Some have weekly practices and others less often. The common thread is that they all do what they do out of a love for the divine services and a desire to praise the All-Holy Trinity.

Diocese of Charleston Bible Study + December 7, 2016

II Thessalonians 2:1-12
Luke 8:16-21

II Thessalonians 2:1-12 (NKJV)
Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

Many Years to His Grace Bishop Nicholas!

Apolytikion of St. Nicholas, Tone 4

The truth of things revealed thee to thy flock as a rule of faith, a model of meekness, and a teacher of temperance. Therefore thou hast won the heights by humility, riches by poverty. Holy Father Nicholas, intercede with Christ our God that our souls may be saved.

December 6th is the celebration of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker and the namesday of His Grace Bishop Nicholas. May God grant him many years!

St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra + December 6

The truth of things revealed thee to thy flock as a rule of faith, a model of meekness, and a teacher of temperance. Therefore thou hast won the heights by humility, riches by poverty. Holy Father Nicholas, intercede with Christ our God that our souls may be saved.

+Troparion, Tone 4

Thou wast a faithful minister of God in Myra, O Saint Nicholas. For having fulfilled the Gospel of Christ, thou didst die for the people and save the innocent. Therefore thou wast sanctified as a great initiator of the grace of God.

+Kontakion, Tone 3

On December 6, we celebrate St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, the fourth-century archbishop of Myra in Lycia (on the southern coast of modern-day Turkey). None of his writings is extant, but his examples of Christian generosity, virtue and love endure to this day. St. Nicholas is the living embodiment of the words "faith without works is dead" (James 2:20). He is also the patron and protector of two cathedrals – Brooklyn and Los Angeles – in our Archdiocese.

2016 Nativity Message from Bishop Basil

The Nativity of Christ 2016

To the Right Reverend Archimandrites, the Very Reverend and Reverend Priests and Deacons and their families, the Venerable Monastics, and all the Christ-loving Faithful of the Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America:

God is with us! God is on earth, God is among us, not now as Lawgiver – for there is no fire, trumpet blast, smoke-wreathed mountain, dense cloud, or storm to terrify whoever hears him – but as one gently and kindly conversing in a human body with his fellow men. God is in the flesh. Now he is not acting intermittently as he did through the prophets. He is bringing back to himself the whole human race, which he has taken possession of and united to himself. By his flesh he has made the human race his own kin, for God is with us!
− St. Basil the Great, Homily 2 on the Birth of the Lord

I send to each of you my paternal love, festal greetings and prayerful best wishes for the merriest of Christmases and a healthy and happy 2017.

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

+Bishop Basil
Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America

2016 Nativity Message from Bishop Thomas

NATIVITY OF CHRIST 2016

"The Word became flesh:" in this is the ultimate joy of the Christian faith. In this is the fullness of revelation. The same incarnate Lord is both perfect God and perfect man. The full significance and the ultimate purpose of human existence is revealed and realized in and through the Incarnation. He came down from Heaven to redeem the earth, to unite man with God for ever. "And became man." The new age has been initiated. We count now the"anni Domini [years of the Lord]!" As St. Irenaeus wrote: "the Son of God became the Son of Man, that man also might become the son of God." Not only is the original fullness of human nature restored or re-established in the Incarnation. Not only does human nature return to its once lost communion with God. The Incarnation is also the new revelation, the new and further step. The first Adam was a living soul. But the last Adam is the Lord from Heaven (1 Cor. 15:47).
– Protopresbyter Georges V. Florovsky, Incarnation and Redemption

Although with the Annunciation we have the moment of the Incarnation itself, the public appearance on this earth of the Lord of Heaven at His Nativity is celebrated most festively in December as the beginning of the story of our salvation. And it is right that we should celebrate. Can there be anything, other than the divine moment of Pascha, which should bring us more joy than the coming of our God?

December 2016 Newsletter

Dear friend of St. Athanasius Academy:

In the Spirit of the Lord's Nativity, please remember our prisoner-students.
Let them know we care, as we seek His Voice of Wisdom. (Mat. 25:34-40)

The Nativity of the I AM
The One named Jesus, the One called the Christ,
The Child and the Emmanuel

Academy Study Notes from the Gospel of John 4: 26 where: Jesus said to her, "I who speaks to you, am He." (I AM the One)

1. Time was now deemed appropriate for the Word of the Lord to reveal Himself to Photini - the woman at the well. He literally said to her, "I AM", for the pronoun "He" does not appear in the Greek, nor is it complete. The "He" is inserted to not confuse the reader. Yet more, the term "He" does not capture the fulness of the "I AM". "I AM" helps remind us of when Moses asked the Lord, Who shall I say sent me. The Lord did not simple say "I", but with greater significant, tells the children of Israel, "I AM", The One-Who-Is", sent me, or "I AM the I AM", sent me, or "The-One-Who-Is", sent me." Bottom line: It was the pre-incarnate One – Jesus Christ – the Anointed Son of His eternal Father, Who spoke to Moses.

2. Jesus, being the Christ, is the Word of the Lord. He is the promised One - the Messiah, the One known to the Jews. He became Incarnate through the womb of Mary, and though always the One divine Person, He is given the personal name Jesus. Why? Because He is and remains, as always, the Deliver – the One Who shall deliver as He promised and promises.

See the attached PDF files for this month's full teaching and to order the study booklets.

Diocese of Charleston Bible Study + November 30, 2016

I Thessalonians 4:1-12
Luke 20:1-8

I Thessalonians 4:1-12 (NKJV) -

Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God; for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit. But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more; that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing.

Resources for Parents + December 2016

While there is an abundance of resources for Orthodox Christian Parents on the internet, here are a few that have been featured on our facebook page recently. These resources will help you explore the lives of saints with your children.

To follow our facebook page, visit www.facebook.com/orthodoxchristianparenting.

The Orthodox Church in America Department of Christian Education offers these (free!) printable activity books that will help your family learn about saints (and the animals that served them; those commemorated in the Litiya prayers; those that can help in times of trouble; and those from North America) through stories and related activities.

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